It came down to the final seconds at Blocksidge Field for the second week in a row. The Swampscott Big Blue scored consecutive touchdowns in the 4th quarter to steal a close 21-13 win against the Salem Witches, with big plays coming in the second half on both sides of the ball.
The Big Blue trailed 14-13, with 3:01 left in the fourth quarter. Swampscott was able to force an incomplete pass from Salem quarterback Christan Dunston on fourth down to give the Blue possession on their own 40-yard-line. Seven plays later, an Aaron Cronin touchdown run, and a Ryan January PAT, clinched the victory with a minute left.
“I just think we continued to battle, and we made all the big plays in the fourth quarter,” said head coach Steve Dembowski. “We had some big pass plays, and Cronin and Brian [Santry] ran the ball hard, and we get some big stops on defense from Jesse Haynes-Lewis.”
The Swampscott offense was not always as smooth as it would be in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Brian Santry threw two interceptions in the first half, both on first-down plays that ended long drives. “I kinda got in [Santry’s] face a little bit,” said Dembowski. “He threw two picks on first down, and that’s not acceptable from a senior quarterback.”
But the senior captain was able to learn from his mistakes. Swampscott put their first points up on the board with a bad Salem snap at the Swampscott 10-yard-line that fell behind the endzone for a safety. Santry quickly drove his team down the field. He found open wideouts near the sidelines, enabling the receivers to step out of bounds to stop the clock after each play. Santry was able to find Cronin on a slip screen for a 25-yard touchdown pass with 30 seconds left, giving the Blue an 8-7 lead at the half.
After another defensive stop by Swampscott late in the game, Santry was able to lead his team to a 14-play, 6-minute drive that ended with a quick slant pass to Josh Rothwell in the endzone to put the Blue up by one with 5:13 left in the fourth quarter.
“Brian learns very quickly, he learned from the mistakes and he made some huge plays in the fourth quarter for us,” said Dembowski. “Even with his legs, he sparked us.”
However, the offense could not do it by itself. Swampscott’s defense faced a daunting task: a running quarterback, armed with two receivers measuring well over 6 feet and a fierce running back. The defense came up with big stops on fourth downs in the second half, eliminating any chance of a Salem comeback.
Near the end of the third quarter, Salem looked like it was going on another touchdown drive. Although the Witches went all the way to the Swampscott 18-yard-line, a tackle in the backfield by Gabe Golden on 4th and 3 prevented a touchdown. And with just under a minute left in the game, an interception by Mikey Faia prevented any chance of a miracle on the Salem side.
“It was just great to get a win for these kids, they worked hard, and we keep overcoming adversities with different injuries and personnel that we had to change on the run,” said Dembowski. “I’m happy for the guys.”